A Simple and Free Way to Find Real Estate Deals

by | BiggerPockets.com

I know that putting out bandit signs isn’t a fun activity. Although, I must say that every successful investor I know has gone through the experience of putting out bandit signs at 3am in the freezing cold.

I also know that addressing and stuffing several thousand envelopes a month isn’t much fun either. But again, it’s my #1 real estate marketing method, which has made me a small fortune. However, today I’m going to tell you another marketing method I use, which doesn’t require much effort and won’t cost you a dime.

In fact, when a new investor asks me for help and tells me they’re broke, this is exactly what I tell them to do. So what is it? It’s taking out your weekend newspaper and calling all of the “For rent” ads in the paper.

For instance, I live in Northern Virginia and get the Washington Post.

So when the weekend edition comes I’ll open it up and there are a ton of listings in the paper. I’ll obviously call the listings in the area I “farm.” Also, I will avoid the listings which have properties for rent for more than $1,500 a month. The reason being is because I know it will be much tougher for me to find a tenant/buyer in my area if I go beyond $1,500.

Also, I make sure and avoid any condos for rent and any two bedroom properties. In short, I’m looking for three-bedroom, two-bathroom single family houses and townhouses. Once I find a property that meets my criteria I simply pick up the phone and call them.

First off, I ask if the property is still available. Then I ask them to tell me all about it. Once the owner is done describing the property I ask them if they’d have any interest in letting me rent it, but also giving me the chance to buy the house down the line. (I don’t use the word lease option yet.)

If they say “no”…

Then I tell them I’m sorry for wasting their time because I’m looking for someone who’d be willing to sell the house down the line. Then I tell them I’ll call back in a month or so to see if the property is still vacant and if they perhaps have changed their mind. (Follow up is crucial in this business, you must always follow up.)

If the person says yes, then I ask them if they have any idea what they’d be willing to sell the house for. Of course, the conversation can go a million different ways, but I always want to make sure they’d be willing to sell and I always try to pin them down on sales price.

Now, depending on how motivated the seller seems, I’ll go right into my lease option pitch and tell them I’m a real estate investor who has families who are looking to rent to own. If they’re not super motivated then I’ll tell them I have to research their property a little more and then I’ll call them back the next day and go into the pitch having more information about the property.

Every time I have called these ads out of the newspaper I have always gotten leads. I haven’t always closed a deal from this, but I’ve always found motivated sellers and many potential deals. I realize if you’re brand new, this can be a little scary, which it why I would find a friend or another investor to partner up with and spend some time this weekend calling ads in the paper. (Also, scripts are very important for this marketing method so make sure you know how to properly pitch a lease option.)

About Author

Jason R. Hanson is the founder of National Real Estate Investor Month and the author of “How to Build a Real Estate Empire”. Jason specializes in purchasing properties “subject-to” and has purchased millions of dollars worth of property using none of his own cash or credit.


  1. As an investor and real estate agent myself, it was interesting to read your techniques for gathering leads. I have stuffed many thousands of envelopes over the years as well- though lately internet lead generation has far surpassed anything I have done through print sources.

  2. Jason, great article for lead generation. I have also called the “For Rent” ads and have had some very interesting conversations with the landlords. I remember one when I first started calling that was hostile at first, but in the course of our conversation he ending with wishing me lucky and felt I had a great future ahead of me. Calling can be scary, but I look at it as an adventure, something I can learn from or establish future connections.

  3. Alex Cunningham on

    Jason, what is your pitch to the seller for the lease option? In other words, how are you structuring yourself into the deal? Are you selling the lease option tenant to the seller for a fee (e.g. the down payment or flat rate) like a wholesaler, or are you acting as the agent for a sales commission? I like the idea of brokering a lease option, but just interested in how you are approaching the deal. Thanks.

  4. Weiwei Gao

    Hi, Jason, would you mind elaborating a bit more on why ‘avoid any condos for rent and any two bedroom properties. In short, I’m looking for three-bedroom, two-bathroom single family houses and townhouses’? Sorry I am new and may have missed something here. Thank you very much.

    • Matt D.

      It’s because the buyers are usually small families looking to buy/own something to raise their family in. They are usually not looking to buy condos or 2-bedroom houses.

      Condos and 2-bedroom houses are very common rental units, so that’s why he says he avoids them in the listings. I dont think he’s implying anything is wrong with those types of properties. They just aren’t what this market is shopping for.

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